Raspberry Pi and Other SOC Hardware

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    • @devyncjohnson

    Many inexpensive single-board motherboards are available to developers and hobbyists. Such motherboards include the Raspberry Pi and CubieBoard. Numerous other motherboards can be found on the Internet. However, what inexpensive motherboards are available and what kind of Linux distros are available to them?


    Arduino (http://www.arduino.cc/) is series of open-source hardware motherboards. Arduino supports Linux, although Arduino is intended for very low-level programming and uses. Arduino's website has a list of supported Linux distros and instructions on how to install the desired distro (http://playground.arduino.cc/learning/linux).

    Banana Pi (BPi)

    Banana Pi is a single-board computer that is very similar to the Raspberry Pi (RPi). The Banana Pi has many features in common with the RPi. However, the Banana Pi has a built-in WiFi device unlike the RPi. The BPi supports many Linux distros such as Lubuntu, Raspbian, Android, Fedora, etc.. A popular distro for the Banana Pi is Bananian (yes, similar to the RPi's Raspbian).


    The BeagleBoard is made by Texas Instruments. The motherboard is open-source hardware and uses the ARM Cortex-A8 processor. The board can run a variety of operating systems such as Linux, RISC OS, Symbian, Minix, and BSD systems. The IGEPv2 (https://www.isee.biz/) single-board computer is very similar to the BeagleBoard.


    The CubieBoard is a powerful single-board computer that uses the ARM Cortex processors. Each model uses a different form of the Cortex. The CubieBoard can run many Linux distros including Ubuntu, Android, Fedora, and many others. There is a Raspbian-like OS for the CubieBoard called Cubian (https://github.com/cubieplayer/Cubian).


    Gumstix (http://www.gumstix.com) is a single-board computer that is about the size of a stick of bubble-gum/chewing-gum (hence the name). The devices are small and durable, but not as powerful as the Raspberry Pi (RPi) motherboard and they are more expensive than the RPi. However, these device consume small amounts of power and have many components on one gum-stick-sized board. Some models have Bluetooth and/or WiFi built onto the board. Most models require that the user insert a MicroSD card into the built-in slot for storage. A few models come with built-in flash-storage.


    Odroid is open-source hardware (with some exceptions) made by Hardkernel Ltd. (in South Korea). Odroid is primarily intended for Android (hence the name - "Open" + "anDROID"). However, other Linux distros work on this motherboard. Android and Ubuntu supposedly run well on this hardware. Many of the Odroids have features exceeding the Raspberry Pi boards. Although, some of the Odroids are more expensive than the RPis.


    The PandaBoard (http://www.pandaboard.org/) is made by Texas Instruments and is about as powerful as the Odroid, but more expensive in price. The PandaBoard supports any system (or nearly any) that uses the Linux kernel including Android and Firefox OS. Other operating systems such as OpenBSD, RISC OS, QNX, and others work on the PandaBoard. The motherboard has many connectors and expansion slots. Interestingly, the board has a built-in WiFi and Bluetooth chip, unlike many other single-board computers. The PandaBoard uses the Cortex-A9 MPcore ARM processor.

    Raspberry Pi (RPi)

    The Raspberry Pi (https://www.raspberrypi.org/) is a popular single-board computer that is very inexpensive and powerful. The RPi uses an ARM processor. A few models of the board are available. The RPi2 model B supports many Linux distros including Ubuntu, Android, Raspbian, Pidora, Raspbmc, Sailfish, Slackware, and more. Other supported operating systems for that same model include RISC, Windows 10, Haiku, FreeBSD, NetBSD, Plan 9, Inferno, and others. There is an edition of Minecraft for the Raspberry Pi.


    The Snowball is a RPi-like board made by ST-Ericsson. The board uses the Cortex-A9 ARM processor and as a GPU, it uses the Mali-400 MP. Tizen (a mobile Linux distro) was ported to Snowball. However, Snowball has been discontinued.

    FUN FACT: Most or all single-board computers do not have or require a fan (unless the processor is over-clocked).

    Many other single-board computers exist such as the DragonBoard by 96-Boards (https://www.96boards.org/), the Cotton Candy by FXI Technologies (http://www.fxitech.com/), and the Rascal by Rascal Micro LLC (http://rascalmicro.com/).

    Further Reading

    Relevant Sites

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